Family and domestic violence survivors could soon have access to paid leave entitlements after the federal government introduced legislation to address the issue.
Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said domestic violence was a “stain on the national soul” as his government introduced a plan into parliament to deliver 10 days domestic violence leave for workers.
If passed by parliament, the changes to employment law would allow any Australian worker, including casuals, to access the measure aimed at supporting survivors.
The scheme will commence from February 2023 for most employees, although small businesses will have an extra six months to adjust to the change.
The leave balance is expected to be fully operational in all workplaces by August next year.
Minister Tony Burke – who introduced the legislation – said the delay would allow businesses a chance to understand their obligations and have appropriate mechanisms and payroll practices in place to manage the requirement sensitively.
“I wish the starting date was years ago rather than next year,” he told parliament on Thursday.
“As a nation we can and must do better … workplaces have a key role to play as a source of critical support for people experiencing family and domestic violence.”
Australian Council of Trade Unions (ACTU) president Michelle O’Neil described the leave allowance as something that would “literally save lives”.
“Nobody should have to choose between their job, their pay and their safety,” she said.
“We need to change the situation that puts mainly women at risk and make sure that this is something that everybody understands is unacceptable.”
Jennifer Westacott, chief executive of the Business Council of Australia said the group also backed the plan to introduce the domestic violence leave provisions.
“We’ve been a strong advocate for domestic violence leave,” she told reporters.
“There are some transition issues … particularly for small business but this is really important to give victims of domestic violence a chance to get their lives together.”